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  • Writer's pictureGraham Smith

NFL Expanding to 40 Teams?

Many NFL insiders including Mike Florio believe 40 is inevitable, so where could we expect to see new franchises?

Speculation regarding NFL expansion has remained fairly static considering the league has been at 32 teams for two decades now. The last new franchise was the Houston Texans in 2002. The majority of professional leagues in the US have remained content with the easily divisible number of 32 teams, including the NFL. However, Roger Goodell has recently expressed his interest in further expansion. Goodell notably mentioned his desire to launch not just one team, but an entire division in Europe. With Florio believing that the ultimate goal is 40, the NFL will take one of two routes, domestic or international expansion. Let's explore both possibilities.


#1: Saint Louis, MO

Saint Louis has hosted 4 NFL franchises altogether, including the St. Louis All-Stars in 1923, the St. Louis Gunners in 1934, the St. Louis Cardinals from 1960-1987, then finally the St. Louis Rams from 1995-2015. The appettite for football is obvious as the XFL's St. Louis Battlehawks has dominated the league's attendance. St. Louis is regularly discussed as the first domestic city to receive an expansion team and could come as soon as within the next 2 years.

#2 San Antonio, TX

Though never having had an NFL franchise, San Antonio has been a relocation target for several franchises including the New Orleans Saints & San Diego Chargers. Currently SA remains the largest city in the US without an NFL franchise; in fact, SA only hosts one pro franchise in the NBA's Spurs. Quite shocking considering San Antonio is the 7th largest city in the country. In a football hungry state, a 3rd Texas franchise should be a no brainer considering FL, NY, & CA already host 3. The AAF's San Antonio Commanders & XFL's San Antonio Brahmas continue to prove the city's desire for pro football.

#3 Orlando, FL

Orlando is one of America's fastest growing markets and the passion surrounding UCF's rise shows the city's love for football. The War-on-I4 Rivalry between Orlando & Tampa's respective universities is something that would easily translate to the NFL. Concerns of oversaturating the FL market shouldn't be a concern as the population continues to boom. Plus, there's always the chance that the Jacksonville Jaguars relocate. Once again we can look to the AAF's Orlando Apollos & the XFL's Orlando Guardians to see the demand is there. Putting another franchise in a tourist town with great weather and no state income tax is music to the ears of NFL players. The Tampa Bay Bucs were able to assemble a super team thanks to that exact pitch.

#4 Birmingham, AL

In a state dominated by College Football, Birmingham stands out as a enticing option for the NFL. The success of the USFL's Birmingham Stallions has shown the city is fully capable of supporting a pro franchise. Aside from the Atlanta Falcons, the Deep South is shockingly devoid of NFL teams. The wide swath of territory unoccupied between the Falcons, Titans, & Saints is prime territory for an expansion team and one in which an Alabama franchise could dominate.

#5 Memphis, TN

Another favorite location for the Alt-Football leagues, Memphis represents an ideal location to round out the southern expansion of the NFL. Memphis is the 29th largest US city, ahead of other locations such as Baltimore, Kansas City, and Miami. Though the Titans lay claim as "Tennessee's team", an intra-state rivalry between the state's two largest cities provides ample growth opportunities for both franchises to force TN residents to choose a side.

#6 Austin, TX

America's 11th largest city is an increasingly desirable destination for pro franchises. Often overlooked in favor of Texas' other massive cities, the capital city is now coming into its own having received its first pro franchise with FC Austin of the MLS. Despite its size, its location between Dallas & San Antonio could cause too much market overlap. There's also the possibility of low attendance given the city has more in common with San Francisco than Dallas or Houston. Regardless, the citizens pride themselves on being active so having another fun event to attend each week would be well received.

#7 Portland, OR

This is a city that makes all the sense in the world; it has the fanbase, the market, and the desire for a pro franchise. Unfortunately the biggest thing holding it back is the city's lack of a stadium. Hiking taxes on an already overburdened populace to build a new stadium could prove extraordinarily unpopular if private money isn't brought in. Nonetheless, Portland provides a ready made rival for Seattle who remains fairly isolated from its fellow franchises.

#8 El Paso, TX

El Paso is a deceptively large city that most rarely consider when examining NFL expansion cities. The city has no pro sports teams & only UTEP in terms of college sports. At first glance this would suggest a lack of enthusiasm for a pro team, however, El Paso provides a gateway to Mexico that is extremely appealing to Roger Goodell. Situated a stone's throw across the border is Cuidad Juarez, a city twice the size of El Paso. The inroads the NFL has made in Mexico shows that El Paso could very well serve as the launching pad for further Mexican market penetration. It's also far enough away from any other Texas franchises to avoid direct competition.

Honorable Mentions:

San Diego, CA - The Chargers former home is one of the top 10 largest cities in the US. Unfortunately, for whatever reason, the Chargers were notoriously poorly attended. The only reason they're not included in my top 8 is because of how likely it is the Chargers leave LA to return to San Diego in the future.

Oakland, CA - It's still too soon to stick a new team in Oakland where the Raiders called home for most of their existence. The possibility of a return to Oakland remains considering they've done it before. Oakland remains firmly Raiders fans and a new franchise likely wouldn't do much to change that.

Salt Lake City, UT - SLC hosts the Utah Jazz and in a state with a rich CFB tradition, an NFL team could prove very successful. Closing the geographic gap between Denver and Vegas could prove enticing enough to knock one of the cities ranked above, out of the top 8.

Columbus, OH - Smack between the Bengals & the Browns is Columbus, a city larger than both of the former. Though the Buckeyes own Columbus, there may be room for a third Ohio franchise and the city already hosts the NHL's Bluejackets. Cincy is already treated as little brother in OH, how well received would a Columbus team be?

Oklahoma City, OK - The largest city in a football crazed state. Home of the NBA's Thunder already, OKC is often amongst the rumored expansion candidates. Despite being a primarily CFB dominant state, Oklahoma has expressed interest in attracting an NFL franchise. The biggest drawback for OKC is that Oklahoma is undoubtedly Cowboys country.

Divisional Structure:

NFC East: New York Giants, Philadelphia Eagles, Washington Commanders, Memphis, Dallas Cowboys

NFC North: Detroit Lions, Chicago Bears, Green Bay Packers, Minnesota Vikings, St. Louis

NFC South: Carolina Panthers, Atlanta Falcons, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, New Orleans Saints, Austin

NFC West: Seattle Seahawks, Portland, San Francisco 49ers, Los Angeles Rams, Arizona Cardinals